Nurse training should embrace simulation and virtual methods of learning to draw on the latest in cutting-edge technology, to help tackle the NHS workforce crisis, universities have suggested.
In a briefing, an association of universities argued that universities should make use of new legislation to employ simulation units, and virtual or augmented reality to deliver ‘simulated placements’ for students.
University Alliance, which collectively trains 30% nurses in England, has called for universities, the NHS, and Government to work together across four key areas to find a solution to the workforce crisis.
There are currently over 46,000 nursing positions vacant, meaning that positions that had been planned or funded remain unfilled, and nurses leaving the NHS at record rates.
University Alliance CEO Vanessa Wilson said there was ‘huge potential’ for the higher education sector to scale up its nursing training provision, and ‘alleviate the strain on NHS trusts and other clinical placement providers’.
‘Alliance universities are delivering innovative nursing training including the use of cutting edge ‘virtual’ clinical placements, taking pressure off NHS trusts and other clinical placement providers in the process.
‘The exciting developments in simulated settings alongside regulatory and funding reforms would enable universities to train larger numbers of competent and confident nurses without compromising on quality.’
The universities also advocate for government to ‘look toward a new model and framework for nursing education’. In particular the University Alliance argues that the UK could train many more nurses if the NMC were to adopt a competency-based approach.
This approach, which is used in the US and Canada, does not require a minimum number of training hours but instead focuses on a set measure of skill.
A statement said: ‘Nursing training is becoming increasingly sophisticated and high-skilled – and we think moving towards a modern framework that keeps pace with these developments is sensible.’
‘Universities could train significantly more nurses if the NMC moved to a regulatory framework based on competency rather than time served. For instance, the NMC could consider the model and framework for nursing education using a competency-based approach, recently developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).’
University Alliance’s four key proposals
– Involve the education sector in long-term workforce planning
– Reform placement tariffs for nursing students
– Fully embrace simulation in nursing training
– Explore a new model for nursing education.
Professor Paula Jane Holt MBE, NMC Senior Nursing Adviser, said: ‘We agree with University Alliance that nurse education must be a key consideration in any plan to address the well-publicised workforce challenges in health and care.
‘As well as greater allowance for innovative simulated practice learning methods, we’re making sure that students experience practice learning in a wider range of settings that reflect where people are cared for.
‘We know some of our stakeholders want us to take this work even further. That’s why we’re exploring more potential changes, including to the number of practice learning hours. We’ll need to work closely with our partners, drawing on research and evidence to understand the potential impact, and how best to maintain effective quality assurance.’
The organisation also argues that universities must be involved in workforce planning alongside the NHS, recommending that higher education providers ‘should play a key role’ in ICBs and ICSs.
Additionally the University Alliance advocates for a ‘fairer tariff for nursing students’, saying that ‘every year Alliance universities must turn away thousands of high-potential applicants to nursing courses’ due to a lack of clinical placements.
Placement providers should be given a better financial reimbursement for taking on nursing students, argues the group, in order to allow better investment in the resources required to deliver placements.